We live in a culture of mass media, marketing, and non-stop advertising. We are constantly bombarded with invitations for products, programing and new experiences. They are peppered in our social media. We have to wait through them to get to the video we want to watch online. We pass by giant signs everywhere we drive. It can be overwhelming if you take it all in—which is why we don’t. I mean, we can’t take it all in. There is just too much. For us to pay attention to advertising in this climate there has to be something that catches our interest, even if it is just for a few seconds.
As a follower of Jesus, I believe the most important message our world needs to hear is the Gospel message—how one can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I am also in favor of using any methods (short of sinJ) to communicate that message. Advertising and marketing strategies have a place in the church if we are called to reach out and engage with the community around us. However, if we are relying only on these methods, we are missing out on the most effective method of reaching people, a personal invitation to church.
A recent study conducted by Barna Group found that 47% of people are open to being invited to church by a friend. Those are great odds. If you were a baseball player with that batting average, you would be in the Hall of Fame.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in personal evangelism. Personally sharing the Gospel message with people. However, this is not an either/or decision; it’s both. For the purpose of this article, I am going to focus specifically on the invitation to church since we are getting ready to kickoff a new series at church and it’s a perfect time to invite.
Let me share with you three passages of scripture that illustrate personal invitation.
1) Matthew’s tax collector party
Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)
When Jesus called Matthew to become one of his followers, he immediately threw a party for all of his friends so they, too, could meet Jesus. When your life is changed, you naturally want to share that experience with others. If God has done a great work in your life through the ministry of a church, it’s natural to want other people to have the same experience. The Gospel is what you needed, but so often it is the entire church experience—the worship, the welcoming environment, the preaching, etc.—that prepared you to hear the message clearly. Matthew wanted to put his friends in the same environment with Jesus that changed his life.
2) The Parable of the Great Feast
This is a story Jesus told about a master who was throwing a party for all his friends. When the party was ready to start, everyone had an excuse not to come.
“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ 23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.”
This parable is all about inviting people to come and participate, indiscriminately. There is a picture in our mind of people who belong at the party and those who don’t. The point is to invite everyone. Sure, they won’t all come. Of course, they won’t all understand the point. But we are not responsible for the outcome, just the invitation.
3) The Harvest is Great
He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
Simply stated, there are a lot of people who need to hear the Gospel message. So why do we have to pray for more workers? We are full of excuses that keep us from sharing. “What if I say something wrong and mess up the Gospel message?” “Evangelism is not my gift.” “That’s the job of pastors.” Trust me, I’ve heard them all. When it comes to the harvest, it doesn’t get simpler than an invitation to come and see what is happening.
God is drawing people to himself and uses his followers to help in this process. A simple invitation to church is often the thing God uses to begin the turn around in someone’s life.
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.